We all want to achieve our weight-loss goals – and we want them achieved yesterday. As a woman I completely understand. But as a health professional I’ve also seen too many patients come to me after jumping on the low-calorie bandwagon only to have their hormones roller coaster shortly thereafter. The worst part is most of the weight returns once you go back to eating your regular diet.
If you want to keep the pounds off for good, here are five of my favourite tricks for successful, long-term weight loss:
1. Steer clear of starvation
No matter what you read, your diet should never involve extreme caloric restriction as it’s often not your fat that starves, but your muscle. When faced with an illness, surgery or other stressful events, your body naturally taps into muscle tissue for energy to support you so always do your best to make sure your reserves are full.
Safe fat loss means losing only fat while preserving muscle. A healthy, long-term solution avoids severe caloric restrictions or fad diet approaches that are unsustainable and always result in hormonally-driven rebound weight gain.
Bottom line: When you reduce caloric intake, your body and hormones work against you by increasing your appetite and slowing your metabolic rate. The key is to use the correct weight-loss techniques like adding a strength- and cardio-training program to look and feel your best for the long haul.
2. Avoid quick-fixes
Staring at a scale when you have a lot of weight to lose is like looking at a steep mountain knowing that you have to make your way down it (think of your first day on the ski hill). A band-aid solution, like liposuction for example, is not the answer however (and certainly not the most affordable).
Dr. Samuel Klein, led a 2004 study showing that patients who lost 30 pounds or more of subcutaneous fat (the fat under the skin, versus around your organs) through liposuction saw none of the health benefits normally associated with weight loss like lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and greater sensitivity to insulin. Even more so, researchers found that a compensation pattern exists and patients had an increase in abdominal (visceral) fat one year after liposuction regardless of whether or not abdominal fat was removed during the procedure.
Bottom line: When it comes to fat loss, slow and steady wins the race. Walking is a great way to lose fat.
3. Detoxify your fat cells
We store the majority of the toxins in our body within our fat cells. Picture hundreds of little hoarders impeding fat loss, causing inflammation, affecting your mood and throwing your hormones into a spin cycle. In my opinion, safe fat loss means completing a detox at the beginning of your weight-loss journey and again after the first few months. While detoxing takes time and commitment, reducing the negative impact of toxins released during fat loss is critical to your health and your long-term weight-loss success.
4. Don’t underestimate your eating
While you don’t have to become a calorie mathematician, I do advise that all of my patients write down everything they eat in a daily journal. You may be surprised that you’ve underestimated how much you’re consuming or that your diet isn’t executed as well as you thought during the day. People often skimp on protein, forget to add healthy fats and in turn overdo it on convenience foods, carbs and sugar.
According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics a few key habits were evident among successful dieters:
1. Women who consistently filled out the food journals lost six pounds more than those who didn’t.
2. Those who skipped meals lost an average of eight fewer pounds than those who didn’t.
3. Women who ate in restaurants at lunch at least once a week lost an average of five fewer pounds than those who ate out less.
I’d like to add a fourth to this list: weigh yourself weekly. This enables you to get back on track when you’ve fallen off the healthy-lifestyle bandwagon and reign in any unhealthy habits before they get out of control.
5. Build momentum early on
This is going to sound like a contradiction, but losing more weight (a healthy amount) at the beginning of your journey can improve fat loss overall.
Let’s face it, when you’re starting a new program you want to see results so you’re motivated to continue (another great reason why jumpstarting your dietary changes with a detox is a great idea). Scientists at the University of Florida found that women who lost a pound and a half (or more) per week maintained greater weight loss in the long run than women who lost only half a pound or less.
Bottom line: You need to account for how much weight you need to lose in total – the higher the amount, the more likely you’ll have a significant weekly drop in the scale. Typically one to two pounds lost per week is manageable for long-term change.
Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and The Supercharged Hormone Diet. Her newest release, The Carb Sensitivity Program, is now available across Canada. She is also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, click here.